San Joaquin County Public Health Services has been awarded an $85,700 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for a year-long project to encourage parents and caregivers to keep their children in booster seats until they reach 8 years old or 4’9” tall as required by California child passenger safety law.
“While most parents and caregivers understand the importance of car seat use for very young children, many incorrectly assume that after a child outgrows a car seat with a built-in harness, they are ready to ride in cars restrained by a seatbelt alone,” explained San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, Dr. Alvaro Garza. “In reality, children who have outgrown their car seats should ride in booster seats until they are 4’9” tall so the seatbelt fits them correctly.”
Typically, children do not reach 4’9” tall until they are between 8- and 12-years-old. Moving children out of car seats and booster seats too soon leaves them vulnerable to serious injury and death.
From 2011 to 2014, 80 percent of child fatalities (ages birth-7) from car crashes in San Joaquin County were linked to being unrestrained or improperly restrained. Public Health Services will use the funding to enhance its continuing efforts to keep children safe in and around cars and decrease motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries among children.
Although child passenger restraint systems cannot protect all children from death and injury while riding in cars, booster seats, when used correctly, can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent in comparison to children in seat belts alone. While San Joaquin County has made progress in recent years in reducing motor vehicle injuries and fatalities, it still ranks in the top third of California counties for traffic collision injuries and deaths, highlighting the need for proper use of child restraint systems.
Funds from this grant will be used to expand the reach of child passenger safety education classes and car seat check-ups to assist parents and caregivers with appropriate car seat and booster seat usage. Project activities will also include partnering with local elementary schools to promote the use of booster seats among students and working with the Stockton Police Department to provide support for continued enforcement of child passenger safety laws.
“Years of research tells us that education and enforcement work best jointly to combat crash-related injuries and deaths in children,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “This grant brings both tactics together, with the Office of Traffic Safety and San Joaquin County Public Health Services working in concert to help keep children safe across the county and state.”
Funding for this program is from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
For more information on car seat education classes and car seat check-ups available through San Joaquin County Public Health Services, call 209-468-8914.